A Federal Transportation Bill Is Coming… But When?

Speaking to members of the National Retail Federation earlier today, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood sidestepped what’s becoming one of the peskiest unanswered questions on the Hill: Will Congress delay the federal transportation bill until next year?

In his address to the retailers’ group, LaHood stuck mostly to his department’s progress in allocating its $48 billion share of the economic stimulus bill. That stimulus money would create so many jobs by summertime, LaHood predicted jokingly, that many Americans would be "irritated" by the sight of "people putting up orange cones" on roads slated for repair.

When the topic turned to the timing of the forthcoming transportation bill, however, LaHood offered few specifics. The former GOP congressman declined to address a report in today’s CongressDaily, a subscription-only Capitol newsletter, that the six-year transportation bill "is almost certain to be punted to next year, if not significantly scaled back."

LaHood did little to quell rumors of a delay in his remarks about the uncertainty surrounding new funding sources for the bill. "There is going to be a huge debate" over covering the predicted shortfall in the federal highway trust fund, he said. "At some point there will be a bill that’ll come out of Congress" that will address the funding question.

So far, the Obama administration has ruled out raising the federal gas tax as well as imposing a tax on vehicle miles traveled (VMT), deeming both options politically unpalatable during an economic recession. Asked by one retailer about alternative funding options, LaHood mentioned increasing tolls on highways, expanding public-private partnerships, and acting on the president’s proposal for a national infrastructure bank — originally conceived as a $60 billion endeavor, but given $26 billion in the recent White House budget.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

LaHood Reaches Out to Transit Industry, Lamenting ‘Lousy Economy’

|
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood sought to commiserate with the cash-strapped transit industry today, declaring the Obama administration an ally of local rail and bus agencies even as the "lousy economy" clouds prospects for passage of a new long-term federal transportation bill. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (Photo: Getty Images) In an address to the American Public […]

TIGER Grant Winners to be Announced By February 17

|
The winners of $1.5 billion in merit-based transportation stimulus grants through the program known as TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) will be announced on or perhaps even before February 17, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood confirmed this week. A rendering of Phoenix’s SkyTrain, which has applied for TIGER aid to link light rail with the […]

VIDEO: LaHood Visits ‘The Daily Show’ to Talk Transportation

|
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c Ray LaHood www.thedailyshow.com Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Health Care Crisis Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood visited Jon Stewart on The Daily Show last night to talk about his department’s role in the stimulus debate, infrastructure modernization, and development of a U.S. high-speed […]

Watch the LaHood Confirmation Hearing Online

|
At 2:00 p.m. the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will vet Obama’s choice for Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood. Will they grill the former Illinois rep on his predilection for pork and ties to Caterpillar? Tune in to the live webcast to find out. Also on tap (tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.) — the House […]